Bubbles takes flight on his greatest journey yet

Bubbles the 2 year old loggerhead turtle is set for release back to the wild, next Wednesday 16 August!

After a rough start to life, Bubbles has been rehabilitating at AQWA for just over 18 months. Now fighting fit, he is ready to fly from Perth to Exmouth and board a boat for release in his home waters of Ningaloo Marine Park.

Travelling these few hundred kilometres is a mere blip in Bubbles’ gargantuan journey! Here’s where it all started…

The journey so far…

Rescued from a beach near Lancelin, just over an hour north of Perth, Bubbles had washed ashore after sustaining significant injuries and suffering from exhaustion.

After hatching from nesting sites in WA’s north, juvenile turtles begin a journey south-west. However winter storms and our unique Leeuwin Current can wash them off course (discover more about WA’s turtles and their journey here).

Finding themselves too far south and too cold, these tiny turtles seek warmer, calmer waters and end up stranding on beaches between Perth & Bunbury.

Luckily for Bubbles (and our team!), he was rescued and brought in to AQWA to be cared for at the AQWA Foundation Turtle Pool.

Bubbles the battler!

Bubbles has undergone an awe-inspiring recovery and rehabilitation! A vet check with blood tests and a CT scan at Perth Zoo revealed, like many rescue turtles, that bubbles was suffering from pneumonia, an underdeveloped lung and flipper damage. This meant he couldn’t dive properly and likely hadn’t been able to hunt.

For turtles, lungs equal more than breath – they help control buoyancy and balance. While one of Bubbles’ lungs filled, the damaged side could not, causing him to float to one side and leading to an inability to rest on the seafloor. He had little chance to catch food in the wild or swim and navigate accurately.

After a little rest, medication, plenty of hand-fed squid and lots of TLC from his dedicated carers, Bubbles regained his strength. That meant Diving School was now in session!

Through consistent care and practice, practice, practice, incentivised by his love of squid, Bubbles began to dive deeper. He now accurately targets food and rests easily on the sand.

By land, air & sea

Having cared for Bubbles for most of his time at AQWA, Aquarist and Marine Biologist Christine Rawlinson explained how far Bubbles has come and just how far he will go:

Bubbles went through a lot, losing part of a fin, multiple infections and not fully developing one of his lungs. Despite all this his curious and cheeky personality has shone through. He is a marvel and a daily reminder of what can be achieved.

Arriving at AQWA weighing less than a packet of potato chips (68 grams) and fitting in the palm of his carer’s hand, he is now a healthy 10kg and his shell reaches 40cm in length (curved carapace length)!

Approved for release by Department of Biodiversity, Conservation, and Attractions (DBCA),  Bubbles will now travel by car, plane and boat to return to the waters of Ningaloo. From here he could travel hundreds of thousands of kilometres over the course of his life, migrating between Australia and Africa.

I can’t wait for him to explore the ocean, and whilst he will be missed, it brings me real joy to know we have done all we can and Bubbles can now live the life he was meant to.

Bubbles will be monitored throughout the trip by staff from AQWA, including his carer Christine who will be on hand to say goodbye. He will also be tagged by DBCA marine scientists so any future sightings of can be recorded.

Help at hand

Bubbles release is one of many collaborative efforts between AQWA Foundation, DBCA and many others to conserve this endangered species with only an estimated 1500 to 2000 females known to nest annually in WA.

You can help by becoming a poised and ready Turtle First Responder! Visit our Turtle Rescue Hub to discover how.